BEIRUT (Dispatches) – The Jordanian authorities have over the past few months deported Syrian refugees to a desolate camp on the Syria-Jordan border, but this is the first time it has been accused of forcible transfers to the desert no man’s land, known as Rukban, a rights group says.
The move by Amman comes despite deteriorating conditions and accusations from rights groups that the returns are a breach of international law.
"People with security issues or other problems [in Jordan] have been deported” to Rukban, starting in July, a member of the camp’s administrative council told The New Humanitarian by phone, requesting anonymity out of fear for his safety.
The source could not provide the exact number, but Mahmoud al-Hmeili, a spokesperson for one of the councils that help govern the settlement, told TNH that 39 people had been sent to Rukban from inside Jordan in the past two and a half months. Most had not remained for long, opting instead to travel on into Syria, al-Hmeili said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Amnesty International said at least 16 Syrian refugees had been "forcibly transferred” to Rukban on 10 August alone.
Tens of thousands people began arriving at Rukban in 2015, most having travelled long distances across the desert to flee Daesh terrorists. They had hoped to seek refuge in Jordan, but Amman put a halt to almost all new arrivals after a car bomb attack in 2016 killed several border guards.
By mid-2016 there were estimated to be some 70,000 people in and around Rukban, but that number has since dwindled to around 10,000. With aid sparse and food prohibitively expensive, many refugees agreed to be evacuated by the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to parts of Syria controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.